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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

X-amining Generation Next #4

June 1995

In a Nutshell

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Chris Bachalo
Inker: Mark Buckingham
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Steve Buccellato & Electric Crayon
Editor: Bob Harras

As Mondo tries to escape the Core with Illyana, Sugar Man confronts Husk & Vincente, still posing as Quietus. Though they've seemingly killed Chamber as Sugar Man ordered, he remains suspicious, and attacks, injuring Vincente and forcing Husk to drop their ruse. Sugar Man orders them killed, but just then, Chamber appears, having used his psionic powers to make it look like he'd been shot, and blasts Sugar Man, seemingly killing him. As a fight breaks out between the guards and Generation Next, Colossus appears & orders Skin & Chamber to help Mondo escape with Illyana. But a still alive Sugar Man overhears him, and kills Mondo, forcing Illyana to emerge from inside him. Colossus proceeds to pummel Sugar Man seemingly to death, but the rest of his students are overrun by guards. Colossus orders Shadowcast to phase him and his sister out of the Core, promising to come back for the kids, but as he races back inside, the facility goes into lockdown, and he's unable to get inside before the doors close, leaving the kids stranded. He returns to the waiting Shadowcat & Illyana, telling them he did everything he could, not realizing that Sugar Man escaped with him.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue: everyone dies! Seriously, almost, as the entirety of Generation Next dies or is left to die in the Core, with only Colossus & Shadowcat escaping (with Illyana), after Colossus orders Shadowcat to get the three of them out, then is unable to get back inside to help his students.

In the closing panels, Sugar Man is revealed to have survived and escaped the Core, shrunk down in Colossus’ boot. He will return in X-Men Omega (and then, of course, in the prime reality).

A Work in Progress
Skin is able to use his skin to kill someone, in one of those "the alternate reality version uses their power in a way the prime reality version hasn't" moments.

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
One of the guards in the Core has an especially 90s cell phone.

Chris Bachalo on Redesigning Newly-Designed Characters for "Age of Apocalypse"

"I know that Marvel wondered about including Generation X in the whole 'Age of Apocalypse' storyline because it was a new title. If I recall, I wasn't in favour of it, but they decided to go ahead with it anyway. With hindsight, I can see it worked out really well. To this day, there are basically two things that I'm famous for - Generation Next and Death. I think those books will be my legacy. Bob Harras was really cool because I had ideas for Generation X that he didn't want to use, and he said I could use them in Generation Next. I was sold. The uniforms in Generation Next were the colours that I wanted them to be and the characters were closer to how I had originally envisioned them. I wanted to be really aggressive with it as well. Worked out well."

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p216

Austin's Analysis
Even for "Age of Apocalypse", this is a dark & devastating issue, with the team technically succeeding in its overall mission of rescuing Illyana from the Core, but at the cost of the lives of the vast majority of the students. That the only survivors are the teachers who were ostensibly responsible for their charge's safety is, of course, just one more turning of the alternate reality screw, as even within the context of this altered universe, we're familiar enough with the beats of these kinds of stories to expect, despite the overwhelming odds against the kids, something to come along at the last minute to save them - Colossus, Magneto, someone. But in the end, all Colossus can do is watch as his students are overrun and killed, all because he (rather stupidly) put his sister's life ahead of theirs (there's no good reason Shadowcat couldn't have gotten Illyana out while he stayed behind to help).

It stands as the culmination of what is on the whole one of the darker & more well-realized AoA series. It's a little thin in the middle - it feels like a three issue story stretched into four - but Bachalo is on point throughout, packing each issue with little details & artistic flourishes (all the more impressive considering he just got done designing the look of the series a few months prior), while Lobdell strikes the right balance between dark humor & grimness, letting things be appropriately dark & despairing but still entertaining to read, right up to that gut-punch of a finale.

Next Issue
Nate battles Sinister & meet his parents in X-Man #4. Next week, X-Men: Omega.

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  1. Whew. This issue DEVESTATED the young me when I was young. I truly believe this is the only AoA that truly nailed the high-stakes anything could happen of this new reality.

    That scene of Colossus and Paige seemingly making eye contact as he realizes that she realizes he deliberately(?) failed to rescue them? Chilling.

    And the last page where we see what could be interpreted as an unfixable crack in the Kitty-Peter relationship? Just incredible.

    I honestly feel Lobdell's & Bachalo's work on X/Next was some of the best in their career.

    It also continues my belief that in the 80s & 90s, the junior books were always *considerably* thematically darker than the main books featuring the 'adults'.

  2. This book made me so sad - the narration working with/against what the art depicts at the end, wringing out all the emotion from the scene & characters. Some of Lobdell's best work. And Bachalo too.

  3. “...after Colossus orders Shadowcat to get the three of them out, then is unable to get back inside to help his students.” I have to disagree with Austin here. I always understood that Colossus deliberately failed to get inside the Core. For him, once he found out that Illyana was alive, all that mattered was his sister. Everyone else became expendable. This version of Colossus, whom I disliked profoundly, made me admire even more the original version, who was always one of my favorite X-Men characters.

    1. Actually, while I do think Colossus' thoughts are left deliberately open to interpretation, I tend to agree with your take on it, that he really isn't trying his hardest to get back to his students just so he can die alongside them while his sister remains alive and, while out of the Core, still in need of his protection, especially in light of his later actions in X-MEN OMEGA. I probably should have pointed out that vagueness, though.

    2. I don't think it's even much left open for interpretation. At best, there's (rather unplausible) plausible deniability left for the most innocent of readers. But, what Michael Post notes above of Illyana's wishful narration juxtaposed to Pjotr's actual actions, and from Kitty's subsequent reaction, it's obvious that he pretty much actively chose to fail to try save them. It's very clear to Kitty that it's the only explanation why Pjotr is still alive while the students are left for dead. And, he did already have to force-sell to Kitty their initial phasing out of the Core.

      I obviously can't not connect the image with the closing door to those in UXM Annual #4 where the young and idealistic prime timeline Colossus literally forces the doors in hell to open in order to save his friend. And this guy here is stronger... and weaker.


  4. // and he's unable to get inside before the doors close //

    I wasn’t sure of Sugar Man’s powers, so when he popped up in the final panels I didn’t know if they were meant only to show that he’d followed the Rasputins or rather to imply that he’d infected / controlled Peter somehow — but after reading Omega it seems pretty clear that he merely hitched a ride and that Peter, free of any outside influence, just flat-out gave up at the blast doors of his own volition after taking in the scene of carnage. Which is some absolutely sickening, Zack Snyder level bullshit. If you’re a fan of a character like Havok or Beast whose AOA incarnation got royally twisted around, you certainly have cause for complaint, but Colossus was still nominally a hero; I can only wonder how many times I would’ve run the issue through the shredder before mailing it back to Marvel had I read it when published.


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